Every OSPO we are working with is being asked to help with AI issues. A well-functioning OSPO already has the cross-disciplinary legal and technical resources to understand and advise on AI issues. As an open source leader in your company, though, AI is a big opportunity to move from being reactive to proactive, from a compliance focus to a strategic focus.
Getting a Seat at the Table
Open source should be part of your organization's strategy, even though in most organizations it is not. OSPOs in most organizations are primarily concerned with compliance. While that role is vital, the lens is narrow.
In contrast, AI has everyone's attention. Most likely your organization is having meetings trying to determine how and when to introduce AI-powered tools into your company and its products. Everyone agrees that AI is going to be a part of your company's strategy. This is the opportunity - AI's computational needs, massive data sets, and ethical considerations require expertise that a well-structured OSPO can offer. If your OSPO is currently sidelined from strategic discussions, AI can help you get a seat at the table.
AI as an Opportunity
AI should be a strategic focus for your OSPO. For years, open source has been essential for web servers, operating systems, and databases. But many business decisionmakers don't know that almost every AI and machine learning framework is open source. Models like LLaMA are being touted as "open source" even when they are not. Your OSPO has the technical understanding and the licensing know-how to help. You can and should be intimately involved in decisions about adopting these technologies, contributing to them, and even spearheading new AI initiatives.
AI lets you bring something that many companies don't yet associate with open source: a forward-looking perspective. Open source has often been considered a solution for immediate, tactical problems, or just a cost of doing business. AI changes that, providing long-term advantages.
So, how does your OSPO leverage AI as an opportunity? By being proactive. A reactive OSPO responds to immediate issues: license compliance, security vulnerabilities, etc. A proactive OSPO can steer the organization toward opportunities and help the organization avoid risks rather than mitigate them.
To take advantage of this opportunity, lean into the unique strengths that come from being an OSPO. Make sure that you are keeping up with the cutting edge of AI. A mere understanding of present technology isn't enough. The landscape is evolving, and your OSPO should be ahead of the curve. Knowing about emerging AI algorithms, their applications, and their limitations can be the difference between tapping into a transformative technology and becoming obsolete.
Legal and ethical considerations around AI—such as copyright, data privacy, and algorithmic fairness—may be murkier than traditional open source compliance issues, but your OSPO already has experience dealing with "ethical licenses" and their interpretive difficulty. The legal landscape is changing as fast as the technology. Lawmakers are scrambling to catch up. You can keep abreast of these developments and even anticipate them.
Finally, communicate. Being on the edge is no good if no one knows. Make it a priority write updates on AI's opportunities and risks, tailored to the concerns of your organization. Such communication helps in setting the agenda for future product directions and ensures that when strategic decisions are made, they're well-informed.